Are You Addicted to Gaming? WHO Recognises It as a Mental Disorder
The World Health Organization (WHO) has now included ‘gaming disorder’ as a mental health condition in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
The World Health Organization (WHO) has now included ‘gaming disorder’ as a mental health condition in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD).(Photo Courtesy: Hongkiat.com)

Are You Addicted to Gaming? WHO Recognises It as a Mental Disorder

Are your kids addicted to video games? Here’s some bad news then!

The World Health Organization (WHO) has now included ‘gaming disorder’ as a mental health condition in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

The ICD, a diagnostic manual published by the WHO, was last updated in 1990 and its new edition, ICD-11, has included gaming disorder as a serious health condition that needs to be monitored.

“Gaming disorder has been added to the section on addictive disorders,” the WHO said in a statement.

Gaming disorder is described as ‘a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (digital or video gaming), which may be online (i.e over the internet) or offline’, as per WHO.

This classification means health professionals and systems will be more "alerted to the existence of this condition" while boosting the possibility that "people who suffer from these conditions can get appropriate help", Vladimir Poznyak, a member of the WHO's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, was quoted as telling the CNN.

Millions of gamers around the world, even when it comes to the intense gaming, would never qualify as people suffering from gaming disorder. And let me emphasise that this is a clinical condition, and clinical diagnosis can be made only by health professionals which are properly trained to do that.
Vladimir Poznyak, Member, WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Though he did note that the overall prevalence of this condition is “very low”.

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Symptoms of Gaming Disorder

The previous draft of ICD had listed a variety of behaviours that clinicians could use to determine if a person's gaming has become a serious health condition.

Someone had gaming disorder if they have impaired control over gaming, in terms of frequency, intensity, duration, termination.

These people give increasing priority to gaming ‘to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests’, and that they will continue gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

Further, in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, the behaviour of addiction to games should be evident over a period of at least 12 months.
Health professionals need to recognise that gaming disorder may have serious health consequences. Most people who play video games don’t have a disorder, just like most people who drink alcohol don’t have a disorder either. 
Vladimir Poznyak, Member, WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse

The new ICD-11 is also able to better capture data regarding safety in healthcare, which means that unnecessary events that may harm health - such as unsafe workflows in hospitals - can be identified and reduced, the statement said.

It also includes new chapters, one on traditional medicine: although millions of people use traditional medicine worldwide, it has never been classified in this system.

Another new chapter on sexual health brings together conditions that were previously categorised in other ways (e.g. gender incongruence was listed under mental health conditions) or described differently.

ICD-11 will be presented at the World Health Assembly in May 2019 for adoption by member states, and will come into effect on January 1, 2022.

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